PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 23-29: Zach Braff, a Move for the Tonys, a Broadway Return for John Lithgow

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 23-29: Zach Braff, a Move for the Tonys, a Broadway Return for John Lithgow
 
Stage actors who achieve fame and riches in Hollywood seem to follow one of three second-act career paths.

John Lithgow
John Lithgow

There are those countless numbers who hit it big in Tinseltown, like it there, and never darken a stage door again. There are those who strike it big, return to Broadway in a one-off star turn, just to show they can headline a production (and collect $100,000 a week), and then are never seen again in the Times Square environs. And then there are those big-hearted souls who seem to have used big-screen or small-screen fame as a stepping-stone to return to their first love — the stage. And they come back again and again. Former "Frasier" star David Hyde Pierce is one of the latter group. Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon are a couple more.

Also part of this club is John Lithgow. Since his hit sitcom, "Third Rock From the Sun," ended, Lithgow has appeared in many plays and musicals, both big (Sweet Smell of Success, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) and small (Mrs. Farnsworth, Mr. and Mrs. Fitch). His newest role, it was announced this week, will be newspaper scribe Joseph Alsop in the Broadway world premiere of David Auburn's The Columnist, directed by Daniel Sullivan, in spring 2012.

Alsop was a actual man. Forgotten today, his columns ran in newspapers between the late 1930s and 1974. He was a supporter of the Vietnam War, and wrote about the need for Soviet containment. At the time of his 1974 retirement, he appeared three times a week in 300 newspapers. He also a secret private life, on which the drama hinges.

This will be the third old-school columnist Lithgow will have played. He was part of a married pair of gossip writers in Mr. and Mrs. Fitch. And in the 2002 musical The Sweet Smell of Success, for which he received a Tony Award, he played gossip columnist J.J. Hunsecker, a character based on Walter Winchell. Which makes me think: Lithgow is what casting directors think journalists look and sound like. Not a bad compliment at all.

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The Beacon Theatre

The Tony Awards people have decided to return to the Upper West Side's Beacon Theatre for the 66th Annual ceremony, which will be presented in June 2012. In fact, a spokesperson for the Tony Awards told Playbill.com that the Tonys have a multi-year contract with the Beacon.

This may seen an odd choice on the surface. The Beacon doesn't have the flash or international name recognition of the Tonys' former home, Radio City Music Hall. It's, you know, the Beacon. A decent place to see a concert.

But many observers noted that this year's Tonys played better in the Beacon than they had ever in the barn-like Radio City. It was cozier, with a more intimate relationship between the audience and the stage. It was, in short, a theatre-like experience. (I'm also guessing that the rent's a little more reasonable, too.)

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Off-Broadway, All New People, a new play (his first) written by "Scrubs" star Zach Braff and starring Justin Bartha, David Wilson Barnes, Anna Camp and Krysten Ritter, opened at Second Stage. Not a bad place to start for a first-timer.

The comedy tells of a bachelor's attempt to mend his broken soul by disappearing at a summer vacation community on the Jersey shore during winter. His scheme is disrupted, however, by the arrival of a band of misfits.

Reviewers called it "slight but lively," (actually, the world "slight" came up more than once) "smart and unexpected" and "agreeable." All told, this is also not a bad place to start for a first-timer.

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David Suchet, the British actor best known for playing Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, is becoming a real America-phile.

Suchet last appeared on the London stage in Arthur Miller's classic All My Sons at the Apollo Theatre. Now, at the same venue, he will headline a new production of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night. It will begin performances April 2, 2012.

Suchet will play the role of the patriarch James Tyrone in the 1956 drama. The production will be directed by Anthony Page, who has some experience with American classics, having directed recent Broadway revivals of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Anna Camp, Justin Bartha, Krysten Ritter and David Wilson Barnes on opening night
Anna Camp, Justin Bartha, Krysten Ritter and David Wilson Barnes on opening night Photo by Peter James Zielinski
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